I rarely cry. Well, that is until just recently. Over the last few months I find the tears come easier and the need to look away is more frequent. I’m okay with it and even welcome it. I never liked seeming as if though I was emotionally dead or impervious to the sorrows faced by others. However today I’m not writing about the now, but about what was before when the tears weren’t there.
I was reminded of how it used to be because of something I saw and read just the other day and it made me think back and remember. The article I read and the video that I watched were in regards to the jersey retirement ceremony of Trevor Hoffman, the great closer for the San Diego Padres. He is a first ballot Hall of Fame candidate whose signature was the playing of AC/DC’s ” @#!*% ‘s Bells” every time he came out of the bullpen. He recorded 601 saves in his career and was a genuine good guy in baseball. He never had the fastball that would overpower batters, instead he relied on accuracy and a very deceptive changeup. At his ceremony, the Padres threw him the changeup. (watch here – watch the complete Trevor Hoffman ceremony and fast forward to the 51:30 mark) At the end of his retirement speech and for the start of the baseball game the Padres put a video up on the scoreboard with Ed Hoffman, Trevor’s dad, singing the National Anthem. Ed Hoffman had passed away in 1995, but the Padres had located a video of him singing the anthem at a game in 1981. In the video, Trevor stands with his family and watches as the color guard comes forward, and then the big screen of the scoreboard flashes images of his deceased father as the loudspeaker blares out the first notes of the national anthem. You can see the surprise on Trevor’s face and his chin begins to tremble as he struggles with the raw emotion of the moment. As I watched the video of him watching his father, tears streamed down my own face and my mind was pricked by a memory of back when my tears were held in check.
For many years I didn’t cry and not because of any macho false bravado or because of lack of wanting. It just hardly ever happened, but on occasion the tears would fall unexpectedly for a few brief seconds. And in those moments when the eyes would blur and my eyelids would dam the tears from flowing over I wondered what it was that triggered the emotions. It never seemed to be brought on by compassion for others, though I believe I am quite compassionate. And it wasn’t in moments of great joy or pride in my children’s accomplishments either. Rather the moments, when they came, were triggered by something else. Something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. The moments are probably best summed up by giving an example of one the things that used to cause the levy of my emotions to break. When I watched the Trevor Hoffman video I flashed back to another baseball scene that has always caused me to tear up, but this one was in a movie not in real life. In the movie, Field of Dreams, as the end of the movie nears and Ray, played by Kevin Costner, is left alone on the ball field with just one player I cannot help but cry every time I see it. The one player left is Ray’s dead father, John, who has come back as he was when he was a young man. As long as they stay on the baseball diamond they can talk and share life together. As John turns to leave the field Ray struggles to get the words out, but then he says, “Hey dad . . . you wanna have a catch?” At that instant, the emotions I have been holding back best me and I have cried every time I have seen it. Even back when I didn’t cry.
Yet I have always wondered what it was about that scene in Field of Dreams that affects me as it does. What stirs my heart and wrecks my self-control in the space of a few minutes when other things far more personal, hurtful, or emotional don’t? Why was my mind and emotions connected by what happened in real life with Trevor Hoffman and in make believe with Kevin Costner? Is it baseball? Hardly, for though I love the sport it’s more because of watching my boys play than anything else. Is it the connection between a father and a son? I don’t think so. Maybe the chance, as is shown both in the movie and in the real life ceremony, of having one last moment with a father who has passed away. Maybe . . . but for me I think there is a different reason. I think that in both of these examples I find my heart pulled uncontrollably somewhere else. Not just somewhere, but to Someone.
As I’ve grown older I’ve noticed more frequently the feelings of what I can only call a “longing”. They come at odd times and in random whispers of memories, songs, and pictures in my mind or in glimpsing the smile on a chubby faced child in a store. When they come my heart feels heavy, but peaceful in the longing. Heavy for what is not yet, but resting in the knowledge that it is so much better. So my eyes were opened a little more and I was reminded while watching the Trevor Hoffman video that there will come a day when reunions will take place, and not on a baseball scoreboard or on a movie set in a corn field in Iowa. And there is a Father who I’ve never seen who waits for me with a love that cannot be equaled or surpassed by any other loved one that will be waiting for me. I know that it is He that sends the longings to us. That in the moments of monotony of our days there come breezes from Heaven that give us glimpses and smells that awaken our souls. They bring to us a realization that where we are now cannot satisfy, but there awaits for us something more. Something more that calls to us and creates in us the longing for Home.